Spinning Retreat

On Sunday I got up, packed my stuff, and headed to San Juan Island for an Explore 4 Fiber Retreat.  So if you are not terribly interested in fiber things, you may want to skip this rather long post.

A GBH landing on a tree outside our dining room window Sunday morning

The items on my computer monitor stand made me smile.

My spinner in the passenger seat waiting for the ferry

My ferry

View from my car on the ferry

Friday Harbor

My lodge room #5

Watching the Zags

So Monday morning after a lovely breakfast the fiber preparations and spinning began.

View of the Lakedale lobby

We started with American Tunis.  I was expecting a fiber similar to the California Red wool that my Jethro used to give me.  But this was different.  It had lovely crimp.  The color varied between white and creamy.  There was roving from Stanwood, raw wool from NC (with only a 2″ staple length), wool from SC, and > 10 year old wool from MI.  For all of the raw wools I tried carding it and then combing it using different techniques doing so.  With these wools, combing went better for me as there were less neps to deal with.

The American Tunis roving and first and part of the second wool samples spun

The rest of the wool samples spun

The Tunis plyed

On the niddy noddy

I had 56 yards chain plyed.

The wool skein drying along with some Shetland yarn I got off the bobbin the evening before.

Each afternoon when I felt like I had enough spinning done, I would walk around the Lakedale property and check things out.  I decided that I liked Yurt #7 the best.

Yurt #7

Then we would reassemble before an amazing catered dinner. One nice thing about this particular gathering is there was more of a variety of ages and ethnicities represented.  Still mostly women though.

My Hansen spinner #35

Each evening our fearless leader Deb Robson would share her knowledge further about wool.  I would then retire to the jacuzzi tub and reading James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life.  I managed to finish this whole amazing book this week!

The lake outside my balcony was so peaceful and wonderful.  The birds’ sights and sounds were incredible.

On Tuesday this group of intrepid spinners took on Bowmont wool.  Now this is a fiber I hadn’t heard of before.  We received some prepared top as well as three samples of raw wool.  There was some from a ewe, a shearling ewe and a ram with 17 micron fiber.  Once again I experimented with a variety of techniques of carding and combing.  I again preferred the combing twice and pulling through a diz as there were less neps this way.   The ram fiber prepared this way spun like a dream.  Here is my Bowmont spun up.

In the afternoon I enjoyed the sunny weather and the resort.

When I returned the lobby was uncharacteristically quiet.

It gave me a chance to look at the historic photos in the lodge.

I made myself a Dark and Stormy (completely opposite of the weather) and enjoyed the balcony while others went kayaking.

Throughout the day periodically I was watching a livestream of Helen Robertson in a 12 hour knitting challenge.  It was fun listening to the women talk with their Shetland accents.  She was making a a Shetland lace deckchair.  This was news in the Shetland Times. I want to live somewhere where a knitting challenge makes the news.  I was confused about what a lace deckchair was but by their midnight and my 5 PM I figured it out.  She had a wee dram at the end.

In the evening I finished plying the Bowmont. I got 36 yards.

Then I relaxed and enjoyed the lake.

Wednesday we work on Romanov fiber.  There were samples of raw wool from the Pacific Northwest and from Kansas.  Both were quite hairy.  The latter sample for me had a lot of VM.  To me, it is like what I would have skirted off of a fleece.  I attempted carding, but the VM just got more incorporated with that.  Combing really helped get rid of the VM but also a lot of the hairs too.  Then it almost became reasonable fiber.  My fiber buddy Michael, though, took what I had left on the combs and threw in the garbage.  He was able to make a really nice yarn with that.  I got only 13 yards of yarn from this.  You can really see the difference between the carded and combed fibers.

Deb had warned us that we were going to be spinning some of the finest and some of the coarsest fibers she has ever had.  I had started early, and there wasn’t as much fiber, so I was done much earlier in the day.  I walked around the resort in the morning and decided that I liked camping spot #211 the best.  It is private, on the lake, away from the road noise and has lots of birds.

Tom arrived to join me Wednesday at lunch.  We enjoyed another incredible catered lunch and then did some island exploring as it was another beautiful day.  We headed to Lime Kiln park and checked out the lighthouse.  But then we hiked south to Deadman Bay.  It was just magical there with the sun flickering off the Salish Sea water.

We checked out British Camp again and then retired to Old Fashioneds on the balcony while others walked their dog.

I read on the balcony (sample below), we had a wonderful dinner, and then our fearless leader read us a Grimm’s Fairy Tale about fiber.

Thursday gave us Gulf Coast Native sheep wool.  She had three samples of raw wool for us.  There was some from a ewe Joanne, a wether Charles and a lamb Lyra.  Once again I experimented with fiber prep techniques.  I did get neps with carding, but the combed wool spun like a dream.  I totally fell in love with Lyra.  I had no idea that sheep from the gulf coast could have such amazing wool.

This is my spinning spot next to those of Michael and Juanita. He made the most amazing rolags from this wool.

Tom rode his new-to-him 250 motorcycle around the island so I walked around the resort and revisited my favorite camping spot, confirming that it is still my favorite.

I plied the yarn before our final dinner.  With plying I had renewed appreciation of Joanne’s wool.

Tom and I watched Kansas State and then the Zags win their NCAA basketball games so that was fun.

But this morning we had to sadly pack up and leave.  The weather had turned cold and rainy so that helped.  We were so lucky with the weather this trip.  Here is a rainy view from the ferry window.  It was fun though because many of the participants were on the same ferry so we all got to hang out a little longer.

I do not think I can articulate how healing these spinning retreats are for me.  I become completely relaxed, and the people there are so kind.  It renews me.


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10 Responses to Spinning Retreat

  1. toastyyak says:

    That looks like a fantastic retreat. So many cool fibers to spin, and wonderful resources in the teacher and other participants. I’ve got a Bowmont fleece I’ve been a little to timid to start. I don’t want to make a mistake. But, I guess, I do have a lot of it, and I don’t mind combing. How many rows of tines were there on the combs that you used?

  2. Jeanne says:

    I’m so glad you were able to attend that wonderful retreat. I enjoyed reading about all the fibers, and so on. That’s a beautiful spot. What a blessing for you and the others who could be there.

  3. Michelle says:

    I’ve never been to any kind of fiber retreat, although I always take spinning or knitting to our church’s women’s retreat. Having time to walk around a beautiful spot is key to ANY retreat for me, though.

  4. Denise says:

    so glad you had good weather for the retreat- really turned ugly Friday! Interesting range of wools to work with- I’ve enjoyed spinning gulf coast native roving, but haven’t had an opportunity to work with any fleece. I might have to pick up the Rebanks book again. Such a good read.

    • Donna says:

      The gulf coast native was my favorite. I love the springiness of the American Tunis and the softness of the Bowmont as well. Wasn’t fond of the Romanov however. Th book paired well although we were not working with the breeds in it.

  5. Kathy L says:

    Gawd, how this would be so nice to do! I’m afraid I wouldn’t come back home.
    I am so glad you went!

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